Robert Morgenthau and Bob Katzmann Introduction

On January 30, 2013Jonathan Fanton introduced Robert Katzmann of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau for a discussion on immigration reform. The two sat down for a conversation with New York Times columnist Kirk Semple at The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute on what would have been Franklin Roosevelt’s 131st birthday. 

Justice for Immigrants

January 30, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. It is my pleasure to welcome you to a very special event: a conversation between Kirk Semple of the New York Times and former US Attorney Robert Morgenthau on Justice for Immigrants. In a moment, I will introduce Judge Robert Katzmann of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit who will frame the issues and introduce our guests.

We are in the historic homes of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara. The Roosevelts lived here from 1908 when Sara gave them number 49 as a wedding gift until they left for the White House in January 1933. The steady flow of visitors to these homes, the lively conversations on issues of the day, the trials of polio and the triumphant return to politics as Governor and President all shaped their world view. It was here where the New Deal was planned, cabinet officers like Frances Perkins recruited, commitments made to programs like Social Security.

What an honor to be in the presence of Robert Morgenthau who knew Franklin and Eleanor.

When Sara died in 1941, Franklin and Eleanor made it possible for Hunter to purchase the homes for an interfaith student center. But the house closed in disrepair in 1992 and remained boarded up until Hunter President Jennifer Raab had them restored and reopened as a Public Policy Institute in 2010. Central to the purpose of the Institute is to sponsor programs on critical issues of our time enabling the public to engage with scholars and policy makers.

Franklin and Eleanor would be pleased that we will address Justice for Immigrants tonight. Hear Franklin’s words in October 1940 radio address to the Herald Tribune Forum. He spoke of how immigrants contributed to our country when he said:

“…These varied Americans with varied backgrounds are all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. All of them are inheritors of the same stalwart tradition—a tradition of unusual enterprise, of adventurousness, of courage ‘to pull up stakes and git moving.’ That has been the great, compelling force in our history. Our continent, our hemisphere, has been populated by people who wanted a life better than the life they had previously known. They were willing to undergo all conceivable perils, all conceivable hardships, to achieve the better life. They were animated just as we are animated by this compelling force today. It is what makes us Americans…They built a system in which Government and people are one—a nation which is a partnership- and can continue as a partnership. That is our strength today… ”

President Roosevelt would have been proud to have appointed Robert Katzmann to the federal bench. He is a scholar and a practitioner, receiving his J.D. from Yale and his Ph.D. in government from Harvard where he studied with Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

At the time of his appointment in 1999 by President Clinton as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, he was the Walsh Professor of Government, Professor of Law and Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University, a Fellow and acting program director at Brookings,  and the President of the Governance Institute.  On September 1, he becomes Chief Judge of the Second Circuit.  He has published books on the Federal Trade Commission, on Transportation Policy for the Disabled, The Law Firm and the Public Good, on Congress and the Courts, and on his mentor, Senator Moynihan.  He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 2007 he gave the Marden lecture at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York about the unmet needs of the immigrant poor. It was rich in evidence about how poorly immigrants facing deportation were treated by both administrative and judicial arms of our government. And it was a clarion call for reform.

A year later he convened a study group on immigrant deportation made up of 50 leading lawyers in private practice, leaders of immigrant service organizations, government officials and more. It commissioned a NY Immigrant Population Study which documented some shocking facts, for example, that 60% of detained immigrants do not have counsel by the time their cases are completed. Maybe that’s why our government expelled 1,150 immigrants every day last April. He will tell you more about the findings and the concrete remedies the study group recommended.

For Bob Katzmann immigrant rights are very personal. On accepting the Learned Hand medal from the Federal Bar Council last year, he said, “We are all shaped by our personal histories. As I reflect on my subject tonight, immigrant representation, my own family’s past no doubt plays a part. My father is a refugee from Nazi persecution, my mother the child of Russian immigrants. I can still hear the accents and voices of my own relatives, who escaped persecution, who wanted to become part of this great country, and who, through their toil and belief in the American dream, made this great nation even greater. When we work to secure adequate representation for immigrants, not only are we faithful to our own professional responsibilities, not only do we further the fair and effective administration of justice, but we also honor this nation’s immigrant experience.”

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Judge Robert Katzmann.


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